President Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark, Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Great Falls, Mont. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The U.S.-China[1] trade war is set to dramatically escalate Friday as threatened higher tariffs go into effect, and President Trump[2] is going into battle with virtually no support from the Republican Party[3] establishment.

But that doesn’t mean Mr. Trump[4] is fighting alone.

The president’s get-tough stance on China[5] is bolstered by an electoral base that for years has been moving away from the GOP[6]’s long-held free trade orthodoxy, according to conservative and business leaders who themselves oppose protectionist tariffs in trade disputes.

“We’ve recognized a lot of our own base — Republican primary voters, conservatives — they are not as favorable toward free trade anymore,” said Tim Phillips, president Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group that steadfastly opposes higher duties.

“This didn’t start with the president,” he added. “The drift started well before him, and it’s not going to end with this tariff and protectionist move.”

Americans for Prosperity plans a multiyear multi-million-dollar campaign to corral Republican voters back into the free trade stable.

Mr. Trump[7] said Thursday that the 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods was just the beginning of his crackdown. Higher duties would hit another $16 billion worth of goods in two weeks, telling reporters en route to a rally in Montana he is prepared to considered another $500 billion in trade duties on Chinese goods if Beijing refuses to compromise.

“It’s only on China[8],” said Mr. Trump[9].

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s government accused the U.S. of “firing first” in the trade war and vowed to shoot back....

China[10] will not bow in the face of threats and blackmail, nor will it be shaken in its resolve to defend global free trade,” said Gao Feng, spokesman for China[11]’s Commerce Ministry.Mr. Trump[12] insists that he is a free-trader, but that for too long the U.S. has allowed what he calls “dumb trade,” charging low tariffs at home while allowing foreign rivals to impose high tariffs and other barriers to U.S. exports, leading to huge trade deficits.With China[13], critics say, the uneven playing field is further tilted by Beijing’s theft or forced transfer of American businesses’ intellectual property.The president blames Beijing’s unfair trade practices for driving up America’s annual trade deficit with China[14] to $375 billion.In the U.S., support for the president standing up to China[15] extends to blue-collar Democratic voters who crossed party lines in 2016 to help send Mr. Trump[16] to the White House. It’s also a position long championed by Democrats, although they have been mostly silent since Mr. Trump[17] took up the cause.The tariff threats have caused wild swings on Wall Street. However, stocks were strong Thursday with the

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